The final installment in the Fifty Shades trilogy, Fifty Shades Freed, arrives in theaters this weekend. It’s a movie about marriage, boobs, exorbitant wealth, getting bullied by poor people, and above all, the ins and outs of the independent publishing industry. It’s the final chapter in the trilogy of adaptations of E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey books: 2015’s Fifty Shades of Grey, which only an alien could love, and 2017’s Fifty Shades Darker, which we mathematically proved was darker than advertised.
Verge reporters Lizzie and Kaitlyn went to see it at the AMC in Lincoln Square on a rainy night in February — a full week before Valentine’s Day, a full 10 hours after receiving, unsolicited, an advance copy of Hey U Up? (For A Serious Relationship): How to Turn Your Booty Call Into Your Emergency Contact in the mail from Hachette Book Group, and a full 20 minutes after knocking back two $12 glasses of syrah. It was the most romantic day of the year, and the best moviegoing experience of their lives, leaving them with only one question:
Why, apart from the obvious misery of the principal cast, would this franchise end after just three installments?
Are you aware that there have been five Pirates of the Caribbean movies, even though that franchise doesn’t make us anything but miserable? That a third John Wick movie is arriving in a couple of months, even though the second one was cataclysmically boring? That there have easily been 700 movies in the last 10 years where a boy becomes a superhero because his wife, child, mother, or male role model is murdered in front of him?
Fifty Shades makes money. Fifty Shades makes us happy. The third one is called Fifty Shades Freed, and during it, we felt free. Why must it end here, just because the filmmakers have adapted all the books in the trilogy?
SPOILER WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE PLOT OF FIFTY SHADES FREED BELOW
Fifty Shades Freed opens with Christian Grey and his girlfriend Anastasia Steele getting married in front of a wall covered with white roses. It also opens with Lizzie and Kaitlyn covering their eyes to avoid being blinded by the oppressive whiteness of Dakota Johnson’s dress, skin, and teeth, which are looming over them at a height of 30 feet, as they settle into their seats in the second row of the packed theater. How we felt: free.
The vows are, you might say, demented. They focus mostly on Ana “respecting” Christian for all her days, as well as Christian “keeping her safe” from, you know, whatever. Their first dance is to “Capital Letters,” a song by Pitch Perfect’s Hailee Steinfeld. The choice is fun but ultimately a little shady, since Christian’s sister Mia is played by Rita Ora, whose song “For You” will also be in this movie, but is not quite what Christian wanted for his big day. No offense, sis! How we felt: free.
Five minutes into their wedding reception, Christian informs Ana, “I’m tired of the riff-raff” (their friends and family), and they leave on his jet. How we felt: free.
Christian and Ana have sex in a gold-plated bed in Paris, then arrive in Greece, where they sit next to each other on a beach and text. Ana says, “Didn’t get much sleep last night,” and lowers her sunglasses as if to say, “Because of sex.” Christian texts her back. How we felt: free.
Ana asks Christian if he can remove her bikini top and put sunscreen on her skin. He tells her, “You’re showing plenty as it is,” and applies sunscreen to approximately four square inches of her back, as if to say, “I would literally rather that you die of skin cancer than be looked at by another person.” How we felt: free.
Ana takes off her bikini top — defiantly! Three movies in, Kaitlyn and Lizzie are pretty familiar with Dakota Johnson’s boobs. Seeing them again feels like sitting in the same Denny’s booth you threw up in on prom night. How we felt: free.
Back on their yacht, Christian braids Ana’s hair. Ana says, “How come you always braid my hair?” How we felt: free.
Christian handcuffs Ana’s arms to her legs so that she is in a position you might remember from doing a crab walk at summer camp. They have sex like that, which seems… okay. How we felt: free.
Christian and Ana’s honeymoon is interrupted by a video chat from one of his employees, who informs him that Ana’s old boss Jack Hyde (the guy who sexually assaulted her in Fifty Shades Darker, but no one called the police) broke into the main server room of Christian’s business empire and lit some stuff on fire. “Did he get any data?” Christian asks. How we felt: free.
Back in Seattle, Ana cooks two enormous steaks, medium-rare. How we felt: free.
Ana asks if she can have a baby and Christian says no. “I’m not ready to share you with anyone.” Kaitlyn and Lizzie eat off-brand Fig Newtons and watch a mouse sprint past their toes. How we felt: screamed a little.
As soon as Ana returns to work at her lucrative publishing gig, she’s promoted to Fiction Editor. Everyone is surprised, including Ana, since she doesn’t even have a computer. How we felt: free.
Christian shows up at Ana’s office and coldly eyeballs a new indie author with a sharp jawline. Ana tells Christian to stop hovering because everyone already thinks she got this job because her rich husband owns the company. Christian tells her, “You earned this job with hard work and talent,” and everyone in the audience laughs, delighted. How we felt: free.
Lizzie remarks, “I think this may be my favorite movie. I’m just happy that everyone is happy.” How we felt: free.
Kaitlyn optimistically notes, “Author with a sharp jawline — good opportunity for a spinoff franchise.” How we felt: there’s hope?
Jamie Dornan’s American accent sounds like he dipped his tongue in numbing fluid, which could very well be a filming survival tactic. His demeanor in each scene is that of a man who just woke up from a nap, except his nightmare is still going. How we felt: free.
Christian has an Audi sports car that he won’t let Ana drive. He takes her into the woods and says of something in the distance, “I bought it. For us. As a home.” Christian’s architect Gia Matteo wants to turn it into a smart home, but Ana says she wants something more “respectful,” meaning she wants Gia to stop eye-fucking her husband. How we felt: free.
Ana gets to drive the Audi home, and when another car starts trailing them, she turns into a racecar driver. She says, “I’m a racecar driver.” How we felt: free.
Christian tells her that in order to lose the guy, Ana will have to park the car in a parking lot. How we felt: free.
Ana and Christian have 20 seconds of car sex. How we felt: free.
Christian tells his team of detectives and bodyguards that he wants to know “everything” about Jack Hyde, such as “Where he comes from. His shoe size.” How we felt: free.
Ana’s bodyguards are named Sawyer and Prescott. How we felt: attractive bodyguard duo… good opportunity for a spinoff franchise.
Anna has a Vertu phone, because she is rich, and because Vertu probably decided the overlap between their customers and the Fifty Shades audience is big enough to warrant a media buy. How we felt: sponsored.
Ana gets after-work martinis with a blonde woman who is introduced into the plotline like we’re supposed to know who she is, but we don’t remember who she is. Ana doesn’t want Christian to know that she’s out at a bar, and Lizzie is shocked they wouldn’t have location-sharing turned on. How we felt: free.
Ana goes home and is nearly kidnapped at knifepoint. After things have calmed down, the detective says he found a laminated note in the parking lot, and asks Ana if she knows what it means. It says, “You owe me a life.” No one knows what that means, presumably because no one watched the Keanu Reeves movie Man of Tai Chi. How we felt: free.
After some confounding vibrator play in the Red Room, Christian tells Ana, “I had a dream last night that you were dead.” How we felt: free.
Ana has a typewriter in her office. How we felt: free.
Ana and Christian are going on a quick private jet vacation with Kate and Elliott and Mia, the three people they know. Two are blonde, and two are Christian’s siblings, and one is both, but we kind of forget which is which. How we felt: attractive siblings… a good opportunity for a spinoff franchise.
Lizzie demands, “Write down that I need a jet.” Kaitlyn starts to write down that Lizzie needs a jet. Lizzie hastily explains, “To go places.” How we felt: free.
Christian sits at a piano and sings “Maybe I’m Amazed,” which amazes his siblings. They remark, “We’ve never heard him sing,” in a tone that implies that they also didn’t know he could spontaneously heal his own surface wounds and talk to animals with his thoughts. How we felt: free.
Ana and Christian take a bath. How we felt: free.
In the middle of the night, Christian goes downstairs and opens the refrigerator. Then he notices Ana is behind him, and he tells her, “I was looking for you.” How we felt: free.
Ana is eating from a carton of Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream. She drips ice cream on Christian’s nipple and licks it off, an indication that she has recently read the classic 1997 Cosmo report, “46 WAYS TO BLOW HIS MIND.” How we felt: free.
They have sex for six seconds. How we felt: free.
The next morning, Ana, the siblings, and the blondes go on a hike. Lizzie remarks, “I don’t need hiking scenes in rich-people movies.” How we felt: temporarily annoyed.
An old-ish man in Christian’s employ informs him that he ran some background on Hyde. This is how he found out that Hyde went to Princeton University. “Smart guy,” Christian remarks. He’s talking about Hyde, and he’s talking about this fantastic private investigator. How we felt: Smart private investigator… possibly an opportunity for a spinoff franchise?
Hyde spent his childhood moving in and out of foster homes in Detroit, this genius reveals. “…so did I,” Christian says, eyebrows tensing as if something is about to be pieced together. His pupils dilate as if somewhere behind them, a brain is churning. Luckily, this lasts less than one second. He immediately forgets the commonality, and his forehead is once again as smooth and untroubled as the surface of Lake Placid. This is right and fair because he is very handsome and rich. He changes into a crewneck sweater. How we felt: free.
At a nightclub, in the mountains, Elliott (who?) proposes to Kate (who?) and we all listen to Jessie J cover a James Brown song. How we felt: free.
Ana attends Jack Hyde’s bail hearing wearing a black trenchcoat and enormous sunglasses. She tilts them away from her face as if to say, “I hope my stalker sees me here.” How we felt: free.
Ana goes to the doctor for an annual checkup. She is six weeks pregnant, yet somehow the ultrasound is already able to pick up her baby’s heartbeat, which moves her deeply. Lizzie and Kaitlyn are very curious about the advancements in ultrasound technology that have taken place between 2018 and whatever time period this movie is set in. How we felt: perhaps experiencing pro-life propaganda.
Christian is incensed by the idea of procreation, and chides Anna for “forgetting her shot.” “I had plans for us! I wanted to give you the world!” he says. He gets drunk with the woman who took his virginity and tells Ana, “Babies mean no sex.” How we felt: free.
Ana tells Christian, “Babies happen when you have sex!” and Lizzie and Kaitlyn are grateful that the real Fifty Shades mystery has been solved. How we felt: Baby? A definite opportunity for a spinoff franchise.
Back at work, Ana gives directives befitting a publishing magnate: “Can you make the font size two points bigger?” How we felt: free.
Then Ana gets a call from Jack, who’s wearing a hoodie-blazer combo. He says there are cool specs on Mia’s phone, which he has stolen from her, because he has kidnapped her. He asks Ana for $5 million. Ana leaves work immediately and goes home to change into something more comfortable. How we felt: free.
Ana has no complimentary-with-yearly-subscription New Yorker totes. Instead, she has to carry a huge leather duffel bag that is both more spacious and more expensive than either Lizzie or Kaitlyn’s apartments. Honestly, they note, it just goes to show that money can’t buy you everything. It can only buy you anything you could ever imagine except a complimentary New Yorker tote. How we felt: free.
Ana goes to whatever bank has $5 million in cash on hand. The skeptical bank manager calls Christian to approve this withdrawal. Christian tells him, “Give her whatever she wants.” The bank manager piles cash into Ana’s leather bag. How we felt: free.
Christian trails Ana, which turns into another car chase. One of Lizzie’s dozens of favorite things about this movie is that there are car chases, but they’re always short and hilarious instead of long and boring. How we felt: free.
Ana hasn’t told anyone that she’s bringing a ransom to Jack Hyde, but Christian knows something’s up, because she just took $5 million out of his account and started crying on the phone. “My sister goes missing and my wife takes $5 million out of our account. You think that’s a coincidence?” Christian says to his driver. No one responds. How we felt: free.
Christian is able to track Ana’s phone because CHRISTIAN AND ANA DO HAVE LOCATION-SHARING ON. How we felt: vindicated.
Ana gives the money to Jack, who slaps her and kicks her once. She passes out. Fade to hospital. Ana might be in a coma? But she’s fine. She rips some oxygen tubes out of her nose. Christian tells Ana, “I wanted your world to begin and end with me.” She responds, “It does. You’re my whole life.” How we felt: duh!
Ana tells Christian, “I know you think you’re gonna be a really shitty dad.” How we felt: free.
Turns out Jack Hyde lived with Christian in foster care when they were young, but Christian got adopted by rich people and Jack got Conor Oberst’s haircut. That’s why he was mad. How we felt: free.
Oh, Ana shot Jack in the leg earlier, but he didn’t die. How we felt: we almost forgot.
Jack isn’t dead? A plausible opportunity for a spinoff franchise. How we felt: hopeful.
Ana says to Christian, “You had advantages — but look what you made of them. You have honor. You treat people well.” Here, the theater audience roars, for Fifty Shades of Grey is keeping the dream of comedy alive. How we felt: so happy.
The best part of the movie arrives: a montage of scenes from across the Fifty Shades franchise, set to the Ellie Goulding song, “Love Me Like You Do,” which was also featured in the first installment. We see Ana and Christian smiling, uncorking wine, sailing, dancing, sailing, drinking, engaging in nipple play, sailing, dancing. Lizzie and Kaitlyn are also dancing, punching their fists in the air like the unlikely victorious team at the end of a football movie. Lizzie hasn’t been this happy in months. How we felt: truly devastated that this is the last Fifty Shades movie.
Everyone in the theater is absolutely coked-out on the sheer joy of having seen this perfect movie. Everyone. Not just Kaitlyn and Lizzie. If they had thought about it, Kaitlyn and Lizzie could definitely have gotten it in writing from each and every audience member that they would be willing to spend at least $300 of their future expendable income on tickets to Fifty Shades spinoffs. How we felt: just two of literally millions of fans.
One more scene! How we felt: we deserve it.
It’s a picnic. Christian wears an aqua polo T-shirt and Ana wears a bohemian-style dress. They have a baby, and Ana is apparently pregnant with baby number two. The Rita Ora song plays again. How we felt: happy for J. Crew’s marketing team.
Pregnant again — a good opportunity for a spinoff franchise. How we felt: definitely there will be a spinoff series, how could there not be?
The next morning, over hard-boiled eggs and lukewarm coffee, Lizzie says to Kaitlyn, “I guess I could see us accidentally writing 5,000 words.” How we felt: free.